Books by Alice Elliott Dark

THINK OF ENGLAND by Alice Elliott Dark
Released: May 2, 2002

"At best, a qualified success. Dark's most accomplished work thus far remains her short fiction."
A lonely woman's painfully extended rite of passage is compassionately explored in this affecting, though uneven first novel by storywriter Dark (In the Gloaming, 2000, etc.). Read full book review >
IN THE GLOAMING by Alice Elliott Dark
Released: Jan. 1, 2000

Pride of place in this second collection of ten stories by Dark (Naked to the Waist, 1991) is given to a tale that has already become something of a contemporary classic. The title piece (successfully adapted for TV) portrays the restrained sorrow of a mother who cares for her adult son as he's dying from AIDS, and her eventual realization that he—not her buttoned-up cold fish of a husband—has been "the love of her life." It's the most immediately arresting, though not nearly the most accomplished, of Dark's knowing, if occasionally slightly clichÇd, dramatizations of romantic obsession, marital discord, and family unhappiness. In "Close," for example, a disoriented father-to-be wrestles—fairly predictably—with the temptation to cheat on his pregnant wife. "Home" depicts the confused reminiscences of marriage and motherhood of an Alzheimer's patient being herded into a nursing home. And "The Jungle Lodge" portrays two sisters matured in different ways by a vacation in Peru with their doting stepfather. The more ambitious tales are generally better. "Dreadful Language" encapsulates the whole lifetime of a "judgmental" girl who coolly distances herself from loved ones, marries for comfort, and finds she has condemned herself to a life of unfulfillment. In "The Tower," an amusing parody of Henry James's tales of renunciation, a fortyish bachelor encounters at home and abroad an enticing young woman with whom he finds he must settle for a platonic friendship. The story even apes James's penchant for injecting workaday metaphors ("Clara, . . . had depleted her tanks") into otherwise ultra-genteel periodic sentences. And "Watch the Animals" deftly chronicles an unconventional heiress's effect on her social set, in a story narrated in an eloquent first-person plural voice. Interesting forays into Cheever and Alice Adams territory, with a trace of Deborah Eisenberg's range of subject matter. A generally worthy successor to Dark's well-received debut volume. (First serial to Harper's) Read full book review >
NAKED TO THE WAIST by Alice Elliott Dark
Released: Sept. 1, 1991

A promising first collection of six stories, two novella- length, that deal with early middle-age and midlife crisis, mostly from a female perspective. The shorter offerings here are more sharply rendered than the novellas. In ``Buddy,'' Charlie Whitman, a photographer, uses the excuse of an abusive father and an unhappy childhood to avoid commitment to Claudine, his French girlfriend. When Claudine is called away to France, Charlie trains her dog Buddy, changing the animal so much—and revealing so much of himself and his need for control—that the couple's relationship is doomed upon her return. ``The Comfortable Apartment'' places a battered wife in a no-win situation: she can stay on with her abusive husband or depend on her sister, Josie, who is so devoted to spontaneous mobility that she offers assistance only to leave for South Africa. Of the novellas, the title story, a meandering affair, follows Lucy Langworthy, 30, to the Florida Keys, where she at first languishes, in love with companion and soul-mate Nick, who's homosexual, and then impulsively marries Vietnam vet Dennis, who turns out to be a dangerous drunk. ``The Interior Studio,'' more coherently structured as a conflict between art and the biological clock, pits Lela's painting against her desire for love and family when she meets Lewis Frame and gets pregnant at age 38. She resolves her dilemma rather absurdly by painting a series of curly-haired babies. ``The Good Listener'' is a well-written clichÇ about a writer who neglects a female student in order to have an affair with a colleague, then gets his comeuppance at a reading. At her best, Dark reveals the dislocations of contemporary life, while in her lesser moments she settles for banalities that are only a notch above popular fiction. Read full book review >